Look Out, 1962 Mets — Here Come the Royals

Currently, the Kansas City Royals are the worst team in Major League Baseball, with just 11 wins and 37 losses so far this season. If the trend continues, they could lose more games than the 2003 Detroit Tigers (43-119) or the infamous 1962 New York Mets, which holds the record for most losses in a season (40-120). What's wrong with the Royals? Robert Siegel talks with Alan Schwarz, senior writer for Baseball America.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

The Kansas City Royals are a Major League Baseball team that was named for an annual Kansas City event, the American Royal Livestock Show. And this year, the way things are going on the baseball diamond, you have to wonder if the livestock aren't the more exciting show. The Royals have won 11 games and lost 37. The bad news for Royals fans, a major league season is 162 games long. So there are 114 games still to be endured.

How bad are the Royals? Well, that's our question for Alan Schwarz, senior writer for Baseball America. Alan, how bad are they?

Mr. ALAN SCHWARZ (Baseball America): Oh, they're pretty dreadful. So bad, in fact, that your introduction calling them a Major League Baseball team was actually quite generous.

SIEGEL: How does a baseball team that had the likes of Johnny Damon in the outfield not too many years ago and before that such terrific players as Frank White and George Brett, how does it go from very good to ok to terrible?

Mr. SCHWARZ: Well, it's a confluence of many factors. One of the reasons that they had George Brett and Frank White and Dan Quisenberry and Dennis Leonard and all sorts of other wonderful players was because they were very good at scouting and developing their own players from high school and college. They're not nearly as good at that as they used to be. Very few teams are. They were the best team in baseball, arguably, during the 1970s.

But also the economics of the game changed and you have to have money to compete now. In the '80s they were owned by a man named Ewing Kauffman, who was a pharmaceutical magnate, who spent a lot of money on the team quite willingly in order to keep them competitive.

But when that stopped, when that era ended, then all of a sudden there wasn't a whole lot of money to pay competitive salaries and free agents didn't go there and the good players weren't coming up through their system. And so you have a situation like you have now, where there's not only no hope for this year, but not a lot of hope for successive years.

SIEGEL: The payroll of the Kansas City Royals compared to one of the competitive teams in the league?

Mr. SCHWARZ: Well, their payroll is at 47 million, which is the second lowest in the American League. However, that should not be cited as the reason why they're so bad. It's more poor management, poor luck and poor economics that have really combined to make this such a dreadful situation.

SIEGEL: The owner of the Royals, David Glass, is the former president and CEO of Wal-Mart. In the business world, that's a pretty high recommendation. It doesn't seem to carry much weight in Major League Baseball though.

Mr. SCHWARZ: Well, a lot of times people come in from outside industries and think that they know how to run a baseball team. And sometimes they're right, but most of the time they're wrong. It's a very strange business and David Glass does not know how to play that game. He's a very bad manager. He has done a terrible job of supporting his general manager. Now his general manager has made some very poor moves.

Allard Baird is his name. He happens to be arguably the nicest man on the planet. He is immensely well liked in baseball, but the problem is, is he has made some poor decisions. But also his owner has not provided him with anywhere near the wherewithal or the discretion to make some of the moves that have helped other similarly situated organizations.

SIEGEL: And now you say Allard Baird is a nice guy. You know what that baseball sage Leo Durocher said about nice guys.

Mr. SCHWARZ: That's right. They finish last.

SIEGEL: Nice guys finish last. Some people in and around Kansas City have found some humor in all this. One blogster put out a press release about how the governor was declaring a state of emergency because of a baseball crisis of biblical proportions in Kansas City. But, actually, it's kind of sad to watch a team be this bad, don't you think?

Mr. SCHWARZ: Well, I think it is sad, because the Royals have an excellent, excellent baseball tradition. In the 1970s, they were the most successful expansion franchise in history up to that point. They went to the playoffs almost every year in the late '70s. They went to the World Series in 1980. They won the World Series in 1985. And everything about them was arguably the model organization.

But, you know, they have really run the organization into the ground to the point where no one really knows what to do with the Royals right now. And it is very sad to watch that organization crumble.

SIEGEL: Well, Alan Schwarz of Baseball America, thank you very much for talking with us about the Kansas City Royals.

Mr. SCHWARZ: Oh, it's my pleasure.

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